Friday, January 18, 2008

Grafton Hill Apartments II: Noir City (1940s)


WWII kicked off a new real-estate boom in Grafton Hill. These apartments reflect city living during the film noir era of the mid to late 1940s and very early 1950s, a little understood transitional era in US cultural history. Aesthetically these buildings are a good study of a provincial city transitioning to tmodern design.

Note the geography: Large apartment blocks are starting to cluster on Central Avenue.


The first was the Grandview Apartments (1944) a neat deco/streamlined thing on Grand Avenue, with some interesting detail (including the door surround and corner window treatment). Sort of a mix of classically inspired detail (quoins around the windows) and moderne (corner streamlines, and curved aluminum canopy)

Incidentally Grandview was named before the hospital located in the area in the late '40s.


I think there were other similar smaller buildings. None survived to the present day. The first big postwar buildings were these on Plymouth and Central, from 1947 & 48. Sort of a transition from deco/streamline to modern: symmetric façade composition, with brick banding on the flanking bays, and a streamline entry canopy.

Though not apartments, Grandview Hospital locates on Grand 1947. One of Daytons’ early modern building, but again a bit uncertain as it retains the classical tripartite façade composition.


And the first postwar elevator building, the 5 story Meridian from 1951. This is more modern, with the blank façade , rectangular windows, and lack of decoration. A symmetric tripartite façade composition is retained
Both the 1947-48 Plymouth/Central and 1951 Meridian have nice entry treatments, with stone facing on both, and that period decorative lettering for the Meridian. Note the subtle difference in the stonework, with a more modernist, perhaps Wrighting tratement with the long thin dimensional stone (or is it brick) on the Meridian, vs the the more streamlined concrete or limestone surround on the Plymouth-Central.

Large scale apartment development went on hiatus during the 1950s in Grafton Hill, but at the end of the decade activity revived.